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Jane Doe Found Wearing Only Men’s Socks In 1988 ID’d As Missing Ohio Woman
A couple came upon human remains along a rural Kentucky road, initially believing they'd come upon dead livestock. What they found was the body of a woman recently identified as Linda Bennett, 38.
A woman whose body was found in rural Kentucky 34 years ago finally has a name, thanks to scientific advancements.
On May 6, 1988, a couple came upon an “unresponsive woman” while walking along a country road in Owenton, Kentucky — about 50 miles south of Cincinnati, Ohio, and 50 miles north of Lexington, Kentucky, according to a Monday press release by Kentucky State Police. Othram Inc. — which would use genetic genealogy to identify the woman decades later — stated the Jane Doe was a victim of homicidal strangulation.
Kentucky State Police Post 5 investigators now say the victim is 38-year-old Linda Bennett of Columbus, Ohio.
“Advancements in technology and scientific testing have led to this new information. This could not have been done without the combined efforts of all those working on the case,” stated Det. Paul Johnson. “I express my heartfelt condolences to the family of Ms. Bennett and hope that knowing her whereabouts helps them to rest easier."
In 1988, Joy Kelly and her husband made the grisly discovery, initially believing they’d come upon dead livestock, according to ABC Louisville affiliate WHAS-TV. What they found was a naked and mutilated body in the overgrown grass.
“As I got closer, I said, ‘I don’t think that’s a goat,'” said Mrs. Kelly in a 2018 interview. “‘I believe it’s a person.’”
Investigators found little in the way of identification but determined the murder victim had been dead for several days and exposed to the elements, according to Othram. She wore only a pair of men’s dress socks, though clothing was found in close proximity to her body, including a brown nylon blouse, a pair of men’s size 5.5 tennis shoes, a pair of jeans and a blue bra.
The victim was believed to have been a Caucasian female between 25 and 40 years old and had a “crude homemade” tattoo with the word “Steve" on her right arm.
According to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs), one or more of her limbs were never found. She was also missing portions from her left hand, though it’s unclear whether that was connected with the homicide.
“Parts of the body [were] missing,” Det. Endre Samu told the Louisville outlet in 2018. “The right hand still existed but there was a certain portion that the fingers were still intact. We were able to get a fingerprint.”
Authorities also determined the Jane Doe had ties to Columbus, Ohio and/or Miami, Florida, according to the FBI.
“Investigators collected her fingerprints and compared them to others in databases and did multiple forensic facial reconstructions, but leads were exhausted,” said state police. “The case has remained open throughout the years, in hope that someday the victim may be identified as technology progressed.”
Det. Samu told WHAS-TV in 2018 that the investigation came to a halt when, on May 14, 1988, the country’s worst drunk driving collision occurred in nearby Carrollton, a bus crash that claimed the lives of 27 people, mostly children.
“That kind of deterred the investigation process on this particular case,” said Samu.
Earlier this year, the KSP forensic lab partnered with Othram Inc. to examine DNA from the Jane Doe’s skeletal remains.
“In 2022, new information was acquired about the potential identity of the Jane Doe, which led investigators to the victim’s son, who provided a DNA sample,” said state police. “The DNA sample was a match to Linda Bennett, positively confirming her identity.”
Detectives later learned Bennett was reported missing in June 1988 — about one month after her body was discovered — by family members in Columbus, Ohio.
According to police, Bennet had "limited contact” with her relatives, whom lived in another state.
KSP officials stated that multiple agencies assisted in solving Bennett’s identity, specifically, the Commonwealth’s Attorney General’s Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI), which “worked closely with KSP Post 5 detectives providing research and data.”
“When you become a part of a project such as SAKI, you do so hoping to get some measure of closure or justice for people who have been waiting for so long, in this case, decades,” said KSP SAKI Det. Janet Barnett. “It also reinforces that no one person can make a case like this a success. It takes professionals from all disciplines and agencies working together to bring cases like this to fruition.”
So far, no information has been released regarding Bennett’s killer.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Kentucky State Police tip line at 1-800-222-5555.